As a general rule, newly installed perennials and shrubs should be watered every two to three days to encourage root growth and to replace water lost through leaves. This practice should be repeated for the first month or two while the plants adapt to their new surroundings. Immediately following this period, water when the soil is dry.
To determine plant needs, move aside the mulch and place your fingers about 3-4” into the soil along the root ball to feel for moist and sticky conditions or dry and powdery ones, if the latter is true, water. Use a watering wand, place the tip a few inches above the soil and beneath branches while avoiding leaves. When the water pools at the base of the plant, move along to the next plant and do the same. Do this twice for each plant, allowing water to absorb into the soil rather than pool and run off.
Continue to check the soil moisture levels, if it’s dry, water. Rain only counts as a “watering “ when there is a full day of steady rain. Pop-up thunderstorms do not count because the rain moves too quickly for it to absorb into the ground. Instead, it runs-off to low areas and catch basins. Avoid watering during the heat of the day, water will evaporate quickly, lessening the amount absorbed or use by the plant.
Tree root-balls are large and require long steady soaks with time in between waterings to dry out. To get newly planted trees established, take a garden hose and turn it on to create a slow, steady trickle. Place it on top of the root ball, about one foot from the trunk and allow it to run for about an hour. Do this once a week for the first year to establish a strong root system. During dry periods in the years following, water using the same method, slow trickle, one hour, once a week.
*If you are watering-in newly installed sod be mindful that too much water on trees, shrubs, and perennials can kill them. Check the moisture level along the root-balls to avoid over-watering.
Trees, shrubs, and perennials should be fertilized one year after installation. Fertilizing within the first year should be avoided as it can damage the root system. Always apply fertilizers when the soil is moist to avoid chemical burn. Basic fertilizers such as 12-12-12 or Miracle Grow can be used unless soil deficiencies are present. Follow the dilution rates as indicated on the package.
Dead-heading is the removal of spent/dead flowers from annuals, perennials, and shrubs. It’s not necessary for a plant’s survival but promotes the development of new flowers and creates a clean, well-maintained appearance. To do so, use pruners to cut the dead flowers from the plant directly above a set of leaves and discard.
Rejuvenation pruning is the practice of removing branches or portions of branches from trees and shrubs. In general, this type of pruning should be done when disease is present to prevent further spread, when branches are rubbing together, and when branches become old and are only producing a minimal number of leaves and blooms. Removal of the older, thicker branches will re-direct the plants energy toward the development of new, vigorous growth. Use pruners, loppers, or a saw.
Plants should also be pruned to maintain shape and size, reduce size, and to keep plants full and dense. Pruning can be done at any time however you should generally do so shortly after they bloom. Waiting too long after the bloom period will prevent flowering the following year as you can remove developing flower buds. Removal of the flower bud is not detrimental to the plant but will reduce the number of blooms the following year. Use pruners or sheers to maintain shape and size. For aesthetic purposes, prune above a leaf intersection to mask blunt, woody tips.
In general, most perennials should be cut back to 1-2” above the soil line sometime in late October through November. Not only does this practice keep your landscape looking nice, it aids in the prevention and spread of disease and insect infestation caused by rotting leaves and moisture.
In addition to aesthetics, mulch is used to keep root systems warm in the winter and helps retain soil moisture during dry seasons. Mulch should be applied annually in the spring and/or fall at a depth of 1-3”, not to exceed 3”.